News and events Tilburg University

A plurality of women professors

Published: 20th November 2020 Last updated: 20th November 2020

Another special work of art has been added to the collection in the Portraits Room in Cobbenhagen Building: a collage with photos of 59 Tilburg University women professors. The work of art was unveiled on Thursday, November 19, during the university’s 93rd Dies Natalis celebration. The panel symbolizes the university’s appreciation of women academics.

First female professor

The very first female professor at Tilburg University was appointed in 1971. Lawyer Madzy Rood-de Boer (1923-2009) subsequently worked at the university for eighteen years, where she laid the foundation for the current courses of Family Law and Juvenile Law. Exactly one century earlier, the first woman was admitted to a university in the Netherlands: medical student Aletta Jacobs.

Target of 25%

The number of women in science has risen since, although the percentage of women decreases as the seniority of the position increases. For instance, at Tilburg University, 53% of PhD students in 2019 were women, 45% of Assistant Professors, 29% of Associate Professors, and 23% of full Professors. Tilburg University’s target is 25%.

To realize targets in this context, universities are reviewing selection procedures and developing mentor programs, and Tilburg University has set up the Philip Eijlander Diversity Program. This latter program has created nineteen new positions, at various academic levels. The scholars involved work on the research agendas of Tilburg University’s five Schools: Towards a Resilient Society, Health and Well-Being, and Creating Value from Data.

vrouwelijke wetenschappers

Changed nature of emancipating groups

The ambition to appoint more women to higher positions is connected to the idea of emancipation, which has characterized Tilburg University from the beginning. It is true that the nature of the emancipating groups has changed over the years, but the fundamental idea is that higher education contributes to the development and education of groups of people for whom this is a thing that could not, or cannot, be taken for granted. The university was established in 1927, as a result of the process of Catholic emancipation, after centuries of Protestant dominance. It was therefore mainly students from the southern provinces who enrolled at this university. A second emancipation wave emerged because the university became increasingly accessible for students (men as well as women) from non-academic backgrounds. The most recent wave in this respect consists of women in academic top positions, but also of students and academic staff from backgrounds that are not exclusively Dutch.

More than 60 women appointed

Since the arrival of Professor Rood-De Boer, more than 60 women have been appointed as full or endowed professors. All these women, also those who are no longer affiliated to Tilburg University, were approached to provide a portrait for this portrait panel. Almost everyone agreed to participate. The portraits have been slightly edited by visual artist Marianne van Hest. By adding spot colors and matching the formats, a harmonious image has been created, expressing the university’s appreciation of women academics.